Monday June 17, 2024

US auto workers expand strike, target 38 facilities at General Motors, Stellantis

US auto workers seek 40% wage hikes that would match the average increases by CEOs over the last four years

By Web Desk
September 22, 2023
US auto workers protesting outside a motor assembly in Michigan, US. — AFP
US auto workers protesting outside a motor assembly in Michigan, US. — AFP

The United States auto workers union extended its strike against two of Detroit's "Big Three" on Friday and requested President Joe Biden to join the picket line in solidarity with the employees. 

UAW President Shawn Fain announced a strike of all 38 US parts and distribution centers at General Motors and Stellantis, where negotiations are stalled.

Fain did not expand the stoppage at Ford, where there are still significant gaps, but has offered important concessions since the strike was launched a week ago.

"As we have said for weeks, we´re not going to wait around forever for fair contracts at the Big Three," Fain said in a briefing.

"We invite and encourage anyone who supports our cause to join us on the picket line, from friends and family all the way up to the president of the United States," Fain said — an invitation that will further push the White House into the politically treacherous issue.

"The way you can help is to build our movement and show the companies that the public stands with us."

Fain said Ford had improved earlier proposals by reinstating a cost-of-living measure that had been suspended in 2009. Ford also offered an enhanced profit-sharing system and granted the union the right to strike over plant closures, AFP reported.

"We´re not done at Ford," Fain said.

However, "we do recognise that Ford is serious about reaching a deal," he said. "At GM and Stellantis, it´s a different story."

The UAW´s strategy of gradually expanding its action is part of what Fain has dubbed the "stand-up strike" — an allusion to the UAW´s landmark "sitdown" strike of the 1930s — that aims to maximise the union´s bargaining leverage due to the risk additional plants will be taken down.

Under Fain, the UAW has adopted an aggressive posture in the talks, accusing the companies of "corporate greed" and lambasting Big Three CEO salaries of more than $20 million each.

Fain has also shelved the UAW´s convention of picking of one the three companies as a strike target, instead launching three independent series of talks that have kept the companies off guard.

The UAW is seeking 40% wage hikes that would match the average increases by CEOs over the last four years.

Other key demands include the elimination of different worker pay and benefit "tiers," a cost-of-living adjustment, and the re-establishment of retiree medical benefits and a pension for junior employees.

The one-week-old strike has so far had a limited effect on company profits while introducing new pressures on auto parts suppliers to the Big Three. However, the expanded strike will pose new challenges for Stellantis and GM.

Analysts consider the worst-case economic scenario to be a lengthy strike that pinches consumption from workers who are taking home $500 in weekly strike pay instead of their normal wages.